This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
Powerful Living Catching Copper Crooks


By Magen Howard and Anna Politano Electric cooperatives get creative to stop metal thieves


Left: Residential copper theft near Bennington, Okla. A pole was pulled down by a vehicle to obtain the copper wire. Center: Trailer in Southeastern Electric Cooperative’s (SEC) yard was ransacked by thieves. Right: Wire snips left at the scene of the crime at the cooperative’s yard. Photos by Kevin Ashley/SEC


I


t’s a crazy way to make a quick buck, when you fi gure that $10 worth of stolen copper can lead to serious injury or death. But thieves involved in a series of copper heists from substations owned by KAMO Power—a generation and transmission cooperative based in Vinita, Okla.,—somehow escaped harm, an incredible feat considering the resulting equipment damage. According to Manager of System Operations Mike Parker, in 2011 alone 74 copper theft crimes took place in KAMO Power’s substations both in the Missouri and Oklahoma sides—with a signifi cantly higher amount of incidents occuring in the Sooner State. Since then, the cooperative has taken various precautions including enhanced law enforcement patrolling, private security companies, video surveillance, and signage on each substation indicating it’s under watch. Parker says each copper theft attempt may cost the cooperative at least $5,000, depending on whether or not additional equipment was damaged. The potential is there for a life-threatening situation with copper theft, and Parker does recommend that the general public—including copper thieves —stay out of substations due to the high risks involved. And with metal theft, it’s not just the crook who can potentially suffer—co-op consumer-members also pay a price.


“Even someone who manages to get away with


only $100 worth of copper, he or she could cause thousands of dollars in damage to co-op equipment, which is eventually repaid by consumer-members through rates,” notes Maurice Martin, a program manager specializing in generation and transmission for the Cooperative Research Network (CRN), the research and development arm of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. “Thieves, for their part, stand an incredible risk for burns, electrocution, or even death, and when they tamper with equipment, they leave behind safety hazards for co-op employees who make repairs. There’s also the potential for power outages to those served by a vandalized substation or stretch of line.” In 2008 alone, copper theft cost electric utilities


more than $60 million, according to a study by the Electrical Safety Foundation International. While criminals seldom make a lot of money off of stolen scrap metal, copper theft continues to rise. The price of copper has skyrocketed in the past decade, urged on by international demand. The sluggish economic recovery and even drug use means some people look to stripping copper wire as a quick way to make a buck. “When metal prices go up, you see a corresponding rise in copper theft,” Martin explains. “Substations have large amounts of extractable copper, so they’re vulnerable.”


Fighting back The uptick in occurrences means electric co-ops


must get both tough and creative in fighting copper crime. Security at substations ranges from simple game cameras to sophisticated alert systems integrated with a co-op’s dispatch computer. One intrusion-spotting technique employs vibration sensors.


“When the earth is moving and nobody’s supposed to be at that substation, you have a pretty good idea that a pickup truck or carload of troublemakers has arrived,” remarks Brian Sloboda, CRN senior program manager. “The motion triggers an automatic alarm that also alerts law enforcement.”


But technology alone won’t stop metal theft. Electric co-ops often rely on the alertness of their consumer-members to catch perpetrators in the act.


“There’s no substitute for a good, old-fashioned neighborhood watch,” emphasizes Kenny Sparks, director of legislative and regulatory affairs for the Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives. “Our cooperatives do their best, but it’s important for consumer-members to keep their eyes peeled for suspicious behavior.”


Some co-ops are rewarding members who report copper crime. Southeastern Electric Cooperative (SEC), headquartered in Durant, Okla., established a Cash Reward Program upon receiving board


6


WWW.OK-LIVING.COOP


Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69  |  Page 70  |  Page 71  |  Page 72  |  Page 73  |  Page 74  |  Page 75  |  Page 76  |  Page 77  |  Page 78  |  Page 79  |  Page 80  |  Page 81  |  Page 82  |  Page 83  |  Page 84  |  Page 85  |  Page 86  |  Page 87  |  Page 88  |  Page 89  |  Page 90  |  Page 91  |  Page 92  |  Page 93  |  Page 94  |  Page 95  |  Page 96  |  Page 97  |  Page 98  |  Page 99  |  Page 100  |  Page 101  |  Page 102  |  Page 103  |  Page 104  |  Page 105  |  Page 106  |  Page 107  |  Page 108  |  Page 109  |  Page 110  |  Page 111  |  Page 112  |  Page 113  |  Page 114  |  Page 115  |  Page 116  |  Page 117  |  Page 118  |  Page 119  |  Page 120  |  Page 121  |  Page 122  |  Page 123  |  Page 124  |  Page 125  |  Page 126  |  Page 127  |  Page 128  |  Page 129  |  Page 130  |  Page 131  |  Page 132  |  Page 133  |  Page 134  |  Page 135  |  Page 136  |  Page 137  |  Page 138  |  Page 139  |  Page 140  |  Page 141  |  Page 142  |  Page 143  |  Page 144  |  Page 145  |  Page 146  |  Page 147  |  Page 148